Panel drafts protections for vernal pools in town

Published on Sunday, 21 February 2021 18:33
Written by Erica Drzewiecki

@drzewieckinbh

NEWINGTON – Vernal pools will soon have a place in the town’s governing rules.

A subcommittee of Newington’s Conservation/Inland Wetlands Commission recently completed an amendment to include this natural feature in the town’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Regulations.

A draft of the changes was presented to the Town Council this week and is set to be approved by the body following a public hearing Feb. 23.

The regulations serve as a rulebook to guide the commission in its review of building applications and permits. Prior to this year, they did not contain explanatory reference to vernal pools.

“What you have before you was a work in progress over a couple years,” Zoning Enforcement Officer Eric Hinkley told the council. “These have been vetted and adopted by the Conservation Commission and planning and zoning. At this point they go to the council for your approval and review.”

The proposed changes add a definition of vernal pools to the regulations. This way, developers proposing building plans in close proximity to these areas will be able to address mitigation efforts to the surrounding environment in their applications to the commission.

Northern vernal pools are defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as seasonal wetlands covered by shallow water for variable periods from winter to spring, that can dry up in the warmer months of the year. They do not typically contain fish and are instead important habitats for salamanders, frogs and toads as well as rare plant species.

Hinkley said the only instance he could recall in which vernal pools had to be addressed by the commission was when national homebuilder Toll Brothers proposed a housing subdivision on Cedar Mountain over a decade ago. The application was denied by the town for its potential impact to the surrounding environment.

“Vernal pools is not a subject that comes up very often, but if it does come up we have something to treat the subject,” Commission Chairman Andreas Sadil said.

Any proposed building plans must provide a 100-foot-buffer between a project’s perimeter and a nearby vernal pool.

Majority Leader Tim Manke thanked the commission for its hard work on the amendment.

“I appreciate the efforts they took to protect our town and these pools which are very ecologically important to us,” Manke said.

Mayor Beth DelBuono went on to point out the changes are not meant to discourage new projects in any way,

“While we recognize we have areas in our town we need to protect we are still willing to work on development if it is appropriate to the area,” she said. “I appreciate you accommodating both of those needs.”

According to the EPA, more than 90% of vernal pools in the state of California have been lost by development and manmade processes.

Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at edrzewiecki@centralctcommunications.com.



Posted in Newington Town Crier, Newington News on Sunday, 21 February 2021 18:33. Updated: Sunday, 21 February 2021 18:35.